Cross-country skiing near Traverse City, Michigan

Winter Trails Add Extra Energy to “Learn a Snow Sport Month.”

For most of North America January is all about snow sports and celebrating winter in the snow. We have been announcing this month-long celebration for more than a decade because it spans the country and always offers super deals and screen-free ways to share the fun with your kids.

Cross-country skiing near Traverse City, Michigan

Cross-country skiing family fun near Traverse City, Michigan

The Winter Trails component focuses on Nordic sports of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing two popular ways to have fun, burn calories and later eat all the chocolate or pasta you want. Because the best cross-country skiing spots are in beautiful surroundings where cell phones usually do not work the chance to escape with your kids for a day is easier. The result will yield more smiling, laughing, and maybe a few breathless moment if your kids are setting the pace.

Vail Resorts Nordic Center snowshoe treks in Colorado

Vail Resorts Nordic Center snowshoe adventures will energize any Colorado family vacation.

During January at participating locations there is no charge for the use of equipment and trails plus most locations offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing instructions for newbies. Organizers have made registration easy with an online service that allows participants to sign up for their preferred location before leaving home. Those who register on-line have the chance to win prizes from sponsors.

Lapland Lake Adirondacks cross-country skiing.

Adirondacks cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake.

Winter Trails locations with offerings include popular alpine resorts like Sugar Mountain Resort near Boone, North Carolina and bucolic Lapland Lake Resort in New York’s Adirondacks as well as state parks, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service land. YMCA of the Rockies has terrific Nordic facilities.  Vail Resorts in Colorado offer Nordic adventures for families and kids of all age may enjoy the trails in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Information about other snow sports learning programs may be viewed at www.winterfeelsgood.com.

Happy trails,

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Snow Tubing Yields Squeals and Smiles.

Don’t wait to get your snow tubing thrills, snowy activities may be part of spring break 2016 for many but Mother Nature is fickle and some are already predicting an early thaw. I am nudging action if your family is in need of a double dose of thrills and laughter because snow tubing will do it.

The growing popularity of snow tubing offers the chance to share snowy thrills and sometimes ride a magic carpet as part of the experience. It does not require lessons or practice to be enjoyed. It’s really a ready-made, surprisingly affordable, screen-free day adventure.

I like it as much as ziplining for many of the same reasons. Snow tubing is definitely a multi-generational experience (not really a sport) that combines a modicum of skill, fresh air, squeals of joy, and laughter. It is a recipe for pure family fun with no apps needed.  It has few age requirements and offers thrills for 10-year-olds, teens, 20-somethings and most snow slugs over 50. Some locations even have mini lanes and short runs for tykes.

To facilitate spring break planning or planning for next weekend, the Family Travel Files has just expanded its Snow Places folder to include an extensive list of snow tubing spots across the US. New additions to the list offer terrific snow tubing possibilities including snow tubing at night, snow play areas and extra activities like snow sledding, winter ziplining, pint-sized snowmobiling, dog sledding, and even a bob sled run for those who get no thrills from snow tubing.

Prepare to slide before the thaw.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Currier and Ives Family Christmas for 21st Century Families.

The classic Currier and Ives scene looks a bit more chaotic when populated with 21st century families but the idea is timeless – sharing time together. I have searched for and found Christmas holiday escapes which include festively decorated cabins and cozy lodges ideal for sharing adventures, making discoveries, and creating a few classic memories.

Cabins for You Christmas in Gatlinburg

At Cabins for You in Gatlinburg no need to decorate just show up and begin to vacation.

Even though November is almost here, it is not too late to book a vacation cabin for the holidays. This week I have spoken with more than a dozen locations each with options for the upcoming Christmas holiday break. True the choices have diminished since August but great places for fireside chats, stargazing, and holiday festivities still may be snagged.

I have a list of seven locations, each well-suited for a family winter holiday break some in cozy cabins with fireplaces and others in tents with fire rings and one in an awesome winter lodge. My three favorites:

  1. Eagles Ridge Mountain Side Cabins in Pigeon Forge. Appalachian retreats for families.
  2. Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Nashville – Extra magic of holiday lights and music.
  3. Stone Mountain Georgia – Christmas cabins plus extreme snow tubing.

More Christmas vacation ideas may be found in our vacation planning folder “Away for the Holidays.”

It’s not too late to plan an escape, really.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Snow Tubing Squashes Winter Blahs

For most of the northern states and for many of us in the south March has provided extra snow, and a string of snow days so unless spring break plans include Caribbean sunshine and sandy beaches or an escape to an indoor waterpark,  snowy activities will be part of spring break 2015. Which is why I am opining about one of my favorite solutions to the winter blahs – snow tubing.

In the old days there was sledding and sometimes tobogganing offering the same thrills but less comfortable seating. And then resorts began to add inner tube lanes to sledding hills providing more bounce with no need to steer in order to enjoy the slide and a new way to enjoy the snow was born.

Woodloch Pines Resort Snow Tubing in Pennsylvania

At Woodloch Pines Resort doubling up on snow tubing is encouraged all winter long.

Snow tubing is definitely a multi-generational experience (not really a sport) that combines a modicum of skill with snow, fresh air, squeals of joy, and laughter. It is pure fun with no apps needed.  It has few age requirements and offers thrills for 10-year-olds, teens, 20-somethings and most snow slugs over 50.

Snow tubing ranks at the top of any winter family adventure list adding energy to chilly days. The growing popularity of snow tubing offers parents and grandparents the chance to share snowy thrills with the younger generation and sometimes ride a magic carpet as part of the experience. It does not require lessons or practice to be fun. It’s really a ready-made, surprisingly affordable, day adventure that makes a healthy family tradition.

To facilitate spring break planning the Family Travel Files has just expanded its Snow Places folder to include an extensive list of snow tubing spots across the US. New additions to the list offer terrific snow tubing possibilities including snow tubing at night, snow play areas and short tubing runs for tykes plus extra activities like snow sledding, winter zip lining, pint-sized snowmobiling, dog sledding, and even a bob sled run for those who get no thrills from snow tubing.

Two view the best snow tubing places in the US posted by region browse Snow Places lifestyle folder.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff

Away for the Holidays with Museum Adventures, Zoo Nights, and Magical Moments to Share.

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Families may create magical moments amid miles of twinkling lights.

Thinking of going away for the holidays? Time is running out. I know from experience when kids are involved getting away during the holiday season takes extra planning and often means finding fun in small doses. Less may actually be more during this often hectic season. For weeks we have been adding unique ideas and clever options to our newest vacation activity folder aptly named “Away for the Holidays”.

The new folder offers hundreds of suggestions for holiday experiences and mini adventures including awesome museums, miles of holiday lights, and plenty of yuletide traditions ideal for families. The menu of ideas in the folder provides a complement to our popular “Santa Trains & Holiday Lights” and the Snow Places folders found on our homepage and featured throughout the site.

The articles highlight unique, as well as traditional ways to share good times and create memories with children.  The collection of festive holiday vacation activities includes the best places to find miles twinkling lights, and great shopping spots but also King Tut and Buddy the Elf in Seattle, awesome dinosaurs in Toronto and Atlanta, SCUBA Santa in Grapevine, Texas, snow tubing in North Carolina and Southern West Virginia, the magic of Dollywood and Winterfest in Pigeon Forge, LEGO Land snowy days, zoo nights in Orange County, oodles of lively events in Washington DC, and holiday traditions along Boston’s Freedom Trail. The complete list of holiday ideas may be viewed by selecting the Away for the Holidays folder located on the homepage.

I wish you happy holidays!

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Editor for theFamilyTravelFiles.com

Santa Trains & Holiday Lights – Celebrating the Season

This week I am making my plans to enjoy a holiday rail adventure from Grapevine to Fort Worth, and share holiday lights in as many places as I can schedule on the calendar. For our family the holiday season is about sharing time together, enjoying old family recipes, and reviving traditions which may have been couched because of geographic separations.

Santa awaits passengers for this year’s New Hope North Pole Express.

Across the country the possibilities are endless to share short breaks with sleigh rides, twinkling lights, Santa trains, and even the magical Polar Express. Walk through a fantasy land of twinkling lights; meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus; sip hot chocolate with Christmas elves; sing carols together; ride a special “Yule Train”. From miles of lights along the Boardwalk at Virginia Beach to the magic of Winterfest in Pigeon Forge celebrating is in the air. This year’s lists of reveal a plethora of ways to share the magic with kids including unique lists for Florida and Britain.

My favorites include Winterfest in Pigeon Forge because it offers not just dancing bears, trolley rides, and twinkling snowflakes but great family-style entertainment in the area. For pure fun, I also like the efforts of LEGOLAND in Carlsbad where from mid November to January the “Holly Jolly Holidays” include thousands of twinkling lights, jolly holiday entertainment, nightly fireworks, and  “Let it Snow’ the musical.

In New Hampshire the Hobo Railway will be running a Ho-Ho-Hobo Express which includes the jolly elf himself, and on select dates the magical Polar Express. The family adventure begins with a wonderful evening train ride accompanied by storytelling elves, and of course, Santa himself. The New Hope & Ivy and Railroad in Bucks County, PA will be running the annual North Pole Express- a train themed to match the Polar Express story. Passengers ride the rails with Santa and Mrs. Claus; sip hot cocoa and enjoy cookies; listen to local musicians play & sing Christmas carols.

You will find many more Christmas train excursions on file as well as holiday adventures showcased in our new Away for the Holidays folder.

Free or Almost Free Winter Family Fun

Kids ski free or fly free, really? Yes, really.

Stay at the Resort at Glade Springs in Southern West Virginia and ski free at Winterplace

As our economy creeps away from   sluggish mode many destinations and resorts are offering extra travel benefits including deals for families. I have my snowy favorites which offer real family vacation benefits – some are time sensitive, some not so much. Plan early, be flexible, and savings can be matched with fun.

Snow, snow, snow. In the last decade, Whistler Blackcomb has received an average of 11.9 metres (39.1 feet) of snow per year. The complex is not just snowy chic but also family friendly offering kids’ programs, kids’ centers, and kids’ adventure zones plus family events and activities. While there are often specials and discounts for midweek stays booking early saves more. Here’s the deal:  Generally kids 12 and younger stay, ski and rent for free with five-night vacation packages. Wait for it! Look for additional savings with early bookings ( by 11.15.2012) meaning up to 33% on equipment rental, discounted lift tickets, savings on Snow School, 10% savings on activities and a $20 gas card with a car rental. Receive a free child lift ticket for every 3-day adult lift ticket purchased; take advantage of free rental equipment all season with every adult rental package purchased. (www.whistlerblackcomb.com/)

Ski free in West Virginia. Once again this season the Resort at Glade Springs in Southern West Virginia is offering guests free lift tickets for Winterplace. Now it is true this spot is for families who enjoy back to basics family fun. I like the area for just those reasons. It is uncomplicated destination which is affordable and easy paced with oodles of options for families who want an active family vacation. In addition to hiking and cavern adventures add skiing, boarding, and tubing to the list. Wait for it! Winterplace is the home to the largest snow tubing park in West Virginia and that fact alone should make you want to pack the kids in the van and escape. Here’s the deal: Resort at Glade Springs offers guests free lift tickets for each night’s stay with complimentary daily shuttle to and from Winterplace plus oodles of resort benefits.  (Toll-free 1-888-477-3424 or www.gladesprings.com)

Checkout more family ski deals and winter family vacation ideas in Snowplaces at the Files.